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(This is part 2 in a series on purpose in parenting. See part 1 here)

Honestly communicating our purpose in parenting

We need to tell them what is already true.

To remind them daily- several times a day, if possible- that when Christ is their life, these words describe them to their core.

Their behavior does not change who they are.
Just like if they choose to act like an elephant, that doesn’t change anything about their identity. They are still your child, and no matter how much time they spend acting like an elephant, you are not going to ship them off to a zoo (although it might be tempting at times).

One huge mistake we often make as parents is forgetting this crucial point. Our kids start acting out- which coincidentally, usually means they are acting opposite to the fruits of the Spirit. Our typical response?

To call them “selfish”, “petty”, “stupid”, “mean”, or “a troublemaker”. Now, here is an example of parents having the power to speak identity into their children.

After we recognize that our children’s true identity in Christ is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled, how do we reconcile the behavior that does not fall in line with these attributes?

Answer: By reminding them of who they really are.

Just like us, our kids often forget their true identity. We are not reminding our children of their true identity by calling them the opposite.

When we call our children selfish, they don’t hear that and think, “Wow. Dad really got it wrong this time! He thinks I’m selfish. Sure, I was acting selfish just then, but I know that isn’t who I really am.”

It would be great if that was our children’s train of thought! That would save them from so many of our parental blunders. No, our children hear us calling them selfish, and they believe it. They hear those words, spoken by the people who were present at their birth and have been a consistent presence ever since, and they think, “Wow. Mom knows me better than anyone else. If she says I’m selfish, I must really be selfish.”

What a heartbreaking story. If only it were a story. Sadly, this happens all the time. But there is hope! It is never too late to start new with your kids. How do we remedy this lie that we have unknowingly spoken into our children’s souls?

First, being aware of the words you use to describe your children is key. Especially when they have messed up.

Secondly, humility goes so far in working towards healing and uncovering the lies. Continual recognition of the times that your words and emotions get away from you is crucial.

Third, reminding them that who they really are is congruent with who Christ is will be essential for them lining up the core of who they are with who Christ is.

Lastly, remembering to extend grace to yourself as you work towards understanding your own identity in Christ. Those fruits that we talked about…they don’t just apply to our kids. They apply to us as well.

It is also important to note that reminding our kids of their true identity is not a substitute for discipline.

Kids need boundaries.

They need to have a clear picture of where those boundaries are and what the consequence will be, should they start to act contrary to who they really are. Here is an example of what this might look like: Let’s say you have a child who has had a problem with lying. You’ve caught them red-handed on a number of occasions and yet they continue to do it.

This is a point where a clearly defined discipline is necessary. Whatever that discipline is, it should be accompanied by a reminder that their behavior is not lining up with who they really are in Christ.

So instead of saying, “Son, you are a liar and we do not tolerate liars in this house. Therefore you are grounded from your phone until you can prove to us that you are not going to be a liar anymore.” Here, this parent has spoken identity into their son. Did you hear it? They have identified their son as a liar.

Meaning, that is who he is- which, if he is in Christ- that is not true.

A better approach would be this: “Son, you have lied to us. When you lie, your behavior is not reflective of who you really are. You are not a liar. Therefore, because you chose to lie, you will be grounded from your phone. We expect your behavior to reflect the goodness that lives in you because of Christ.”

How life-giving is the second response? We all respond much better to difficult circumstances when other people communicate that we aren’t worthless.

The next parts to this piece will include how we can coordinate purpose in parenting for our children!